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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12035


Mr MURPHY (Reid) (14:45): My question is to the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts representing the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations. How did the government's Fair Work Act help in the lockout of workers by Qantas and get Qantas planes back in the air? How does the handling of this dispute compare with previous industrial disputes?

Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (14:46): I thank the honourable member for Reid for his question. I know that he is a long-time campaigner for fairness in the industrial relations system. When we came to government, we reintroduced fairness through the Fair Work Act. I am asked how this played a role in the resolution of this dispute. It played an important role, but it was the act facilitated by the decisive action of the Prime Minister that got the planes flying again.

This was a situation in which Australia was confronted with a company that, with very little notice and no intention of changing its mind, had determined to ground its entire fleet domestically and internationally, which would have led to the crippling of the Australian economy and the stranding of tens of thousands of passengers around the world. What the government did was take immediate action when it learned of this intention. It took this matter to Fair Work Australia. The matter was convened that night and adjourned the next day so that the case for the impact in terms of the national interest and the economy could be determined. As a result of that adjourned hearing, the industrial action was terminated—not just suspended but terminated. That has now allowed the circumstances in which, over the next three weeks, the parties are required to bargain in good faith to resolve this dispute, and, if that cannot be done, it will be compulsorily arbitrated upon. That is what will happen because of the act and because of the actions by the Prime Minister.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr Abbott interjecting

Mr CREAN: I am asked, and I hear all of this from the other side, about what the government should have done and when; let us just reflect on their view of what the government's role in similar circumstances would be. This is what the Leader of the Opposition on a previous occasion has said in relation to government involvement in industrial disputes:

The Government must be highly selective about the cases where it seeks to intervene. In general, the parties to an industrial dispute should make their own arrangements … without any government—

assistance. In other words, these hypocrites who sit opposite are trying to make the issue of how we should have got involved when we did, yet they themselves do not believe in government involvement. If there is any doubt about that, I remind people what the architect of Work Choices had to say a week ago. This is what Peter Reith had to say:

A lot of people say there’s a dispute so let’s get the government to fix it. Quite frankly that is old thinking … It’s an idea that we—

meaning the Liberal Party—

abandoned for a very good reason … when it comes to a dispute the government is not the solution …

That is the thinking of those on the other side. So do not come here, with your cant and hypocrisy, saying where the government should have intervened earlier; look at your own form. If you want to understand where this dispute could have ended up, look no further than what happened in the Patrick dispute, where, rather than try to get a resolution, you fanned its continuation. You had a midnight cabinet meeting to pass legislation that legitimised the sacking of an entire workforce and its replacement by a scab workforce. That is your view of industrial relations; it is not ours.